Libraries

Dude Doesn’t Get Libraries

Photo by tinaxduzgen. Used under CC-BY-ND: http://goo.gl/njMQxC

Photo by tinaxduzgen. Used under CC-BY-ND: http://goo.gl/njMQxC

If you’re a librarian, you’ve probably come across the op-ed by MG Siegler on Techcrunch. It can be interpreted as “outsider baits group and revels in group response.” Put in the context of other anti-library pieces, one may discover some patterns. For a piece that is critical of libraries, but encouraging of discussion, I recommend Seth Godin’s post “Future of the Libraries.” How does the tone shape the discussion versus the latter pieces? What is Godin trying to communicate?

Libraries are part of the communities to which they belong. Libraries change and adapt. There’s an interesting subtext regarding these pieces. If an op-ed writer cannot see a place for libraries, perhaps it speaks more to their sense of place within their community. Are they disconnected? Do they only socialize with people similar to themselves? Do they participate in local government?

When it comes to changing libraries, librarians have been deeply engaged in this topic. One of those discussions took place in the form of Syracuse University’s MOOC: New Librarianship. If someone wishes to participate in conversations about the role of libraries, there are venues both on and off-line. However, it means participating in community and not employing empty rhetoric.

Instead of writing another post when the next I-don’t-use-libraries-so-they-shouldn’t-exist op-ed comes out, I’ll just add to this one. The similarity and substance speaks for itself.

Not only are they [libraries] being rendered obsolete in a digital world, the economics make even less sense. One can easily envision libraries making their way to the forefront of any budget cut discussions. I know this sucks. Libraries have been an invaluable part of human history, propagating our culture and knowledge over centuries. But recognizing the changing times and pointing out the obvious shouldn’t be considered blasphemy. It is what it is. MG Siegler

I live across the street from a library… or at least what used to be a library. The Donnell Library on West 53rd Street. Today, it is a big hole in the ground. There is going to be a 50-story condominium and Baccarat Hotel where the Donnell Library used to be. Frankly, I will not miss the library. Michael Rosenblum

Despite the general leftward trend of librarians on an organizational level, libraries once served a useful function. Once. If the New York Public Library experience can be generalized, the modern library is a place that has few books and a lot of internet terminals and free laptops for homeless people who want to check their Facebook accounts (yes that’s a thing) or watch YouTube videos. Daniel Greenfield

“I’m not attacking libraries, I’m attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant,” Deary told the Guardian. “…we’ve got this idea that we’ve got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that.” Terry Deary

Public libraries by and large sit on prime real estate. Cities and towns are on the verge of bankruptcy. You could cut out most of the stacks, increase the seating area for kids, reduce the number of books you buy, and rent out or sell off the remaining space, reduce spending, and help balance the budget and save taxpayer dollars. The case against libraries? It’s stronger than many people think. Michael Levin

Timothy A. Lepczyk

Tim is an instructional technologist and former librarian. On the side, he writes fiction and poetry, and publishes the magazine Scintilla. You can follow him on Twitter at @thirdcoast.

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